Return to Me is a Romantic Comedy with a predictable ending, but it has an interesting premise, and some very touching scenes along the way.
The stars are David Duchovny (better known for his role in X-Files) as Bob, and Minnie Driver as Grace. Bob is an architect, happily married to Elizabeth who is an animal behavior specialist at the Lincoln Park Zoo (Chicago). Her work passion is Sidney, a Gorilla to whom she has taught sign language.
When Elizabeth is killed in a car accident on the way home from a fundraiser for a new gorilla habitat, Bob is devastated. Elizabeth's heart is donated to a young woman named Grace. Grace recovers her health. She is a happy, but lonely, girl surrounded by a loving family support system. Her grandfather and his friend run an Irish-Italian restaurant, where Grace is a waitress. Meanwhile Bob has been slowly recovering from his emotional loss, and his buddy Charlie (David Alan Grier) is trying to get him to date again.
Bob shows up at the restaurant on a blind date arranged by Charlie. The date goes poorly, but Bob is immediately drawn to Grace. They begin to date and things seem to be going well until Grace discovers that she has Elizabeth’s heart.
This movie was sweet. It’s not my usual style, but it was a gift, and I was afraid our friends would ask me how I liked it, so I watched it. About six months later, I played it again thinking I hadn’t watched it yet. So, I have to conclude that it wasn’t completely memorable, for me (although I bet I’ll remember it now). That said, it was certainly a touching story, well-acted, and directed. The editing was also well-done; although this is definitely no action movie, scenes don’t drag.
There are plenty of funny moments. Nothing is roll-on-the-floor funny, but the mix of goofy, over-zealous matchmaking family members and friends works well. Anyone with a heart is sure to smile a little.
Poignant moments include the implication that Elizabeth’s heart jumps when Grace passes Bob once before they are ever introduced. Both Sidney the Gorilla and Bob’s dog seem to recognize her.
Duchovny and Driver are impossibly cute, and this always helps in any romantic comedy. There is the usual fake tension– will they get together? will they let "the heart” get in the way of their hearts?– but it all adds to the pleasure of the happy ending.
The supporting cast includes a long list of well-known actors, making all of the surrounding atmosphere shine, in addition to the primary plot. Caroll O’Conner is Grace’s grandfather (this was his last movie). Other actors of that generation include Robert Loggia, Eddie Jones, and Marianne Muellerleile. Bonnie Hunt and James Belushi are Grace’s good friends.
Bonnie Hunt both wrote and directed Return to Me, and she also acts in the movie.
Extra features include commentary by Bonnie Hunt which can be turned on or off. There is a music video: “What If I Loved You, ” part of the movie’s background sound, by Joey Gian featuring scenes and out-takes. There is one deleted scene with Caroll O’Connor and buddies singing Danny Boy.
Return to Me is rated PG. I’m not sure why, possibly for scenes in the hospital during the heart transplant. There is certainly nothing of a mature nature in the relationship. This would be a movie you could watch with older children, and it could be a good platform for discussions about what makes a person unique. Is it their physical heart?
Mostly it’s a pleasant, feel-good movie.
1 hour 56 minutes. Released in 2000. Available at Amazon for under $15.